observatory group pyramid                         giovanni a. frassetto

plaza 1 (L) plaza 2 (R)                       giovanni agostino frassetto

observatory group platform structure           giovanni a. frassetto

structure 6E-13                              giovanni agostino frassetto

site map                                                              google/mellard

str 6E-13                       giovanni a. frassetto

recovered jade cache             yaxuna archaeology project/YAP

plaza 1 looking north                         givonni agostino frassetto

detail war council house                                        ela ginalska

lidar image                               traci ardren/YAP

structure 6F-4 temple cache                                            YAP

popul na/war council house                              dennis jarvis

"la muneca"                             inah

north acropolis 6F-3                     giovanni agostino frassetto

view south from north acropolis structure 6F-3  onto plazas 1 & 2                                                              hjpd

observatory group/central acropolis           google earth/mellard

recovered ceramic plate                                               YAP

structure 6F-3 royal tomb c.350 CE                                    YAP

observatory group observatory                    ela ginalska

ball court                                            giovanni agostino frassetto

observatory group pyramid                          giovanni a. frassetto

site map             yaxuna archaeology project/YAP


structure 6F-48 popul na                                       dennis jarvis

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structure 6F-3    giovanni a. frassetto

YAXUNA- Yucatan, Mexico

Yaxuna, First/Blue House in Yucatek Maya, is an important Maya archaeological zone located in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula. The site has been linked with the early colonial era shaman’s book, Chilam Balam of Chumayel, and is named within as Cetelac. It has a long settlement history that spans from the Middle Preclassic (750-350 BCE) through the Post Classic (1150-1521 CE).

The site experienced two periods of sustained growth, and during the Late/Terminal Classic period (600-1150 CE) was strongly allied with the major city/state of Coba being connected via the longest sacbe in the Maya World running 62 miles/100 km in length.

Yaxuna consists of four main groups loosely aligned on an axis about 22 degrees east of North. There are large residential settlement patterns on the periphery that attest to the importance of the site which is just 12.5 miles/20 km south of the World Heritage site of Chichen Itza. The site encompasses about .6 sq mile/1 km sq, with the core area easily visited, though at times heavily overgrown.

Yaxuna is most easily reached off of Highway 180 that connects Merida to Cancun. From the town of Piste (Chichen Itza) take Calle 22 13 miles/22 km south to the archaeological zone (good signage). The site is situated along the east side of the road just before the village of the same name.

HOURS:8 A.M.-5 P.M. everyday
ENTRANCE FEE: $5/100 Pesos Ejido fee
GUIDES: sometimes on site, or inquire at the nearby village of Yaxunah
ON-SITE MUSEUM: Small museum located in Yaxunah village, and some nice carved monuments in the nearby town library of Yaxcaba.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Day trip from Valladolid or Piste (Chichen Itza)
GPS: 20d 32’35” N, 88d 39’47” W
MISC: Be sure to visit the Lol Ha cenote in the town

There have been two monuments discovered so far at the site. Unfortunately, the glyphic passages are too eroded to read to help in identifying the names of its rulers and direct political/social connections to other sites.

Ceramic evidence points to an early settlement history back to the Middle Preclassic period. Masonry architecture began by the end of the Middle Preclassic, and accelerated into the Late Preclassic (350 BCE-250 CE). This is a time when the site experienced sustained growth, and where evidence of a very early dynastic rulership is found similar to that seen at the site of Cerros in Belize. At this time the structures at Yaxuna were the tallest north of El Mirador, and it was the largest site in the central Yucatan Peninsula. This growth continued into the Early Classic (250-600 CE).

The structures from this time frame are characteristic of the Peten and would seem to indicate a relationship with that area. The site is ideally situated in the relative center of early trade routes that formed an axis connecting the north coast, the Caribbean coast, the western Gulf of Mexico, and then further south to the Peten. A number of small satellite sites have been linked to Yaxuna including X’telhu, Mopila, Kankabdzonot, Tzacauil and Popola. Evidence of early kingship accession rituals has placed the site at the earliest documented beginnings of this type of dynastic ritual in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Around 400 CE the royal dynasty was apparently overthrown, executed and buried in a mass grave. This time frame witnessed a great many forced dynastic changes in the Maya area brought on by the arrival of the warlord Siyaj K’ak’, Fire is Born, from Teotihuacan into the Peten in 378 CE. The new king had a stela commissioned of himself in Mexican-style war regalia, and placed in the North Acropolis. The new dynastic order appears to have shifted its trade/political/social orientation to the western Yucatan along with noticeable Teotihuacan influences from Central Mexico.

Ceramic evidence points to the possibility of a new dynasty taking hold around 550 CE with diminished social/political associations now oriented to the north, and to the eastern coast. The aforementioned stela was unceremoniously dumped on the north side of Structure 6F-4.

The situation drastically changed again in the Late/Terminal Classic when the major site of Coba physically took possession of Yaxuna to control its trade routes, and to keep in check the expanding influence of Chichen Itza a mere 12 miles/19 km to the north. These two regional powers were in constant rivalry for control of the northern Yucatan. It is also possible that Coba wanted to claim some sort of royal affiliation with the earlier dynastic history of Yaxuna as the site may have become a pilgrimage destination by this time.

 Possibly for these and other reasons Coba invested considerable wealth and manpower to construct the raised sacbe that links both sites covering a distance of 62 miles/100 km. The sacbe is the longest in the Maya World, and an engineering marvel. Read more on this achievement by clicking on: “Mexico-Coba Yaxuna Sacbe” from the menu bar.

With the intrusion of Coba into Yaxuna the site experienced a revival in trade, population and civic constructions. Influence from the Puuc area is seen in many of these later constructions, with Uxmal apparently joining in the alliance against Chichen Itza.

The history of Yaxuna took a turn for the worse in the Terminal Classic. c.950 CE, when Chichen Itza attacked, defeated, and occupied the site. Hastily built  walls were not enough to prevent the loss of the city. This occupation was short lived however, and Yaxuna fell into a steep decline, and was eventually abandoned after Chichen Itza itself was defeated c.1300 CE. The site however, remained a pilgrimage destination into the Late Post Classic period.

The first explorations were undertaken by the Carnegie Institution during its extended explorations beginning at Chichen Itza in the 1920’s. H.B. Roberts undertook excavations in 1932. Alfonso Villa Rojas explored Yaxuna in 1934, and was the first modern explorer to traverse the famous sacbe that extends to Coba. Other archaeologists connected with the site at this time included Eric Thompson, Sylvanus Morley, and Harry Pollock. George Brainerd conducted extensive explorations of the site in 1958. INAH began excavations and restorations in the 1970’s. The Yaxuna Archaeological Project directed by David Freidel and Traci Ardren took place at the site between 1986-96.  

There are four main groups that make up the archaeological zone of Yaxuna. This site plan was formulated during the Preclassic emphasizing its early imprint with all the acropolis groups displaying a triadic arrangement of structures atop a raised basal platform base. These groups are connected by several short sacbeob. The most studied group is the North Acropolis.

The North Acropolis is constructed upon a low, but very large platform base whose plaza features a triadic assemblage with the main structure, Structure F6-3, located on the north side of the platform plaza. Structure F6-2 is on the west side, and is an unexcavated mound. Structure F6-4 is located on the east side of the plaza and has been excavated and partially restored.

Structure F6-3 is a truncated pyramid. A south facing central stairway leads up three levels, 36 feet/11 meters, to a summit terrace. An earlier, labyrinth substructure was discovered beneath the stairway, and is thought to relate to early kingship accession ceremonies such as those recorded at the Preclassic site of Cerros in Belize.

A stairway at the north end of the summit terrace leads up a secondary structure 16 feet/5 meters to a level summit housing several interconnected chambers. A royal tomb, Burial 23 dating to c.350 CE, was recovered beneath the summit floor. The king was surrounded by carved bone, 13 ceramic vessels, shell and jade jewelry, and an apron of mica mirrors which adorned his body. It is the only sealed royal tomb located to date in the Yucatan. The tomb is currently visible for visitors to look down into. A recreation of the tomb is found in the nearby town community center.

Structure F6-4 is located on the east side of the platform base. It is a mostly ruined three-level, pyramidal structure that rises to a height of 26 feet/8 meters. Five lower-level chamber entrances once appeared on its east and west sides. A west-facing stairway leads up to the summit terrace. The remains of a masonry superstructure are on the east side of the terrace. The south side of the pyramidal structure has an apparent Terminal Classic addition on it, and labeled as F6-48.

The F6-48 structure is known as a Popul Na’/lineage house, and also as the “War Council House”. This structure consists of three chambers and exhibits decorative Puuc style architecture. The structure was ritually “terminated” by forces from Chichen Itza when they conquered the site. The front columns were cut out allowing the chamber roofs to collapse. A number of skeletons were discovered beneath the rubble.

A large burial of eleven royal elites, Burial 24, was discovered within Structure F6-4. These were the remains of the previous dynasty that was violently overthrown c.400 CE. One of the items recovered from the mass burial is a small ceramic figurine named “la Muneca”, and was found cradled in the arms of a young female victim. The figurine displays clear Central Mexican attributes. In the temple above the burial a vessel containing the jewels of the deposed king were discovered with an axe head ritually driven into the vessel.

Immediately to the south of the North Acropolis are two small plazas, here named Plaza 1 and Plaza 2. Plaza 2 has received scant attention in the written record, but is ringed by a number of structures, some containing masonry chambers. Plaza 1 incorporates several structures. The north side of the plaza has a series of 4 step risers that lead up to the North Acropolis Group Plaza. The east and west sides of Plaza 1 are taken up by low-rise platform structures with wide stairways. The center of the plaza incorporates a low dance/ritual platform.

The south side of the plaza is taken up by the Ball Court, Structures 6F-15 and 16. This complex is of standard design with sloping walls, and open end zones. The structure measures around 86 feet/26 meters in length. A statue of the Moon Goddess, Ix Chel, was discovered nearby buried within a structure thought to be a steam bath-Pibil Na. It is now displayed under a small palapa.

The southern end zone of the Ball Court continues on as Sacbe 3, the main North/South Axis at the site. A distance of about 336 feet/102 meters south along Sacbe 3 leads to several structures of note.

The east side of Sacbe 3 has a group of three excavated structures that may have been formed around a small plaza, and is here named the Observatory Group. A pyramidal structure rises up four tiers and exhibits a south facing stairway. The base of this structure measures about 80 feet/24.5 meters square. A circular structure of three tiers lies just to the east of the pyramid, and has a diameter of about 68 feet/21 meters.

Excavations into the structure have revealed an earlier single-chamber square temple. A stairway extends out to the southwest. This has been named an observatory, though it may have had a different function perhaps related to the Wind God, Bolon Tzacab. The last structure of the group is a square platform with a secondary structure in its center, and measures about 33 feet/10 meters square at the base.

To the south of the above group is Structure 6E-13. This rectangular platform structure is where the Coba -Yaxuna Sacbe begins/ends. The structure dates from the Early Classic, and modifications have altered its orientation due East in conformity with the sacbe which ends in a ramp that leads to the structure summit. A wide stairway is on the west side of the structure. The remains of a masonry superstructure crown the summit. The base of the structure measures around 73 feet/22 meters x 51 feet/15.5 meters.

A short distance south of Structure 6E-13 is the East Acropolis. This complex is currently mound covered and in an unexcavated condition. The acropolis faces to the west. Behind the East Acropolis group are two Early Classic platform mounds about 9.75 feet/3 meters in height. These have been identified as ritual theatre/dance platforms. Most unusual, beneath these mounds a labyrinth of corridors has been discovered. It has been speculated that these platforms were constructed as public theatre to announce the accession of a new king. Post holes have been discovered atop one structure, and it is thought that a scaffold was placed here. Scaffolds are prominently depicted in Maya accession rites that have been discovered on ceramics, wall paintings and in the codices.

 The East Acropolis is set along a short sacbe, Sacbe 2 that runs east/west and intersects with Sacbe 3 at a small mound. This intersection marks the ancient heart of Yaxuna. The west side of Sacbe 3 has some structures of note, including the Central Acropolis and an apparent “E Group”.

The Central Acropolis is mostly mound covered, with its main structure, Structure 5F-3 the dominant pyramid. Two other separate structures, Structures 5E1-1and 5E-2, form around a plaza on the south side of the Central Acropolis.

Structure 5E-1 is a square, steep-sided pyramid; Structure 5E-2 is a long, low and relatively narrow platform. Together these buildings constitute an E-Group design as defined at the important site of Uaxactun, and may have been used to detect astronomical events.

The South Acropolis is located along Sacbe 3 at its southern end, and is designated 5E-19. It is a large basal platform rising about 19.5 feet/6 meters in height and measures about 293 feet/90 meters square. A central pyramid rises an additional 19.5 feet/6 meters, and is flanked by two smaller structures. The main structure itself measures about 130 feet/40 m square at its base. In Preclassic times, Structure 5E-19 was the tallest structure north of El Mirador.

An elite residential group has been identified to the southeast of the South Acropolis. Other smaller residential and civic groups are located within the general site core area, and large residential areas located to the west of the public road. A small palace group, Xcan Ha, has been explored and lies about 1.25 miles/2 km to the northwest of the North Acropolis, and dates to the Early Classic.

stela 1 drawing         f reidel/sadr/YAP

​​​​​welcome to the mayan ruins website .

str 6E-13 looking east     giovanni frassetto

observatory group observatory                  giovanni a. frassetto

observatory group observatory                    giovanni a. frassetto

structure 6F4                                      giovanni agostino frassetto